UIC HOSTS WORKSHOP ON DATING MARTIAN MATERIALS
The University of Illinois at Chicago, with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Adler Planetarium, is hosting a workshop for scientists trying to develop methods for dating materials from Mars and delineate a Martian geochronology.
The workshop, June 4-7 at UIC's Engineering Research Facility, 842 W. Taylor St., is by invitation only and brings together leading experts from two scientific communities that do not often overlap: terrestrial geochronologists, or experts in dating earthly materials, and planetary scientists who focus on Mars.
On Earth, geologic time is divided and subdivided into many eons, eras, epochs and periods. In contrast, the Martian geochronology can only be divided into three broad periods, according to conference organizer Peter Doran, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences at UIC.
"Everything studied up to now has been done on meteorites from Mars, which are identified from their composition," Doran said. "But these meteorites largely date from the formation of the planet billions of years ago. We need to develop techniques that could be applied to younger features of the planet, such as the salt deposits in the dried lakes."
Doran said the workshop participants will try to identify terrestrial geochronological techniques that could be applied on Mars as well as new techniques that are possible only in the unique Martian environment.
"On Earth our nitrogen-rich atmosphere makes carbon-14 dating possible," Doran said. "There may be some reaction created in Mars' carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere that could be used for a radioisotope dating technique."
Some methods may lend themselves to remote measurement by probes on the Martian surface, Doran said, while other analyses may require retrieval of samples to Earth.
Dating the various materials and geologic processes on Mars may give details as to the planet's climate history, Doran said.
"On Earth, everywhere you see water there is life. On Mars, there was certainly ample water in the past. We just don't know exactly when."
With 25,000 students, the University of Illinois at Chicago is the largest and most diverse university in the Chicago area. UIC is home to the largest medical school in the United States and is one of only 88 national Research I universities. Located just west of Chicago's Loop, UIC is a vital part of the educational, technological and cultural fabric of the area.
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